America loves Thanksgiving – the holiday that celebrates American traditions, family togetherness and gratitude for the unparalleled bounty of our great nation. As Thanksgiving approaches this year, American Humane Association went to Capitol Hill to urge Americans to set a humane table for the holidays and support humane farm practices.
Joined by the CEOs and leaders of major organizations involved in food production, as well as small, medium and large farmers and producers who have committed to raising animals humanely, one of America’s most recognized award-winning top chefs, and some of the nation’s foremost animal welfare pioneers, “The Humane Table” congressional briefing celebrated and gave thanks to American farmers and ranchers who not only put food on our families’ tables, but who work to put the “heart” in “heartland” by providing food that is safe, abundant, affordable and humanely raised under ethical, commonsense and scientifically demonstrated standards. American Humane Association also released the “2014 Humane Heartland Farm Animal Survey” of nearly 6,000 Americans, showing overwhelming support for humanely raised foods (results below).
“In America, we have much for which to give thanks, including the unparalleled bounty of our great nation,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. “As Thanksgiving approaches this year, we want to recognize and thank those enlightened farmers and ranchers who feed our families and do it in a way that is in line with our values of compassion and caring. Despite their invaluable work of feeding the world, farmers often get criticism when things go wrong and too rarely get praise for when they do things right. We must end abuse and discourage poor farming practices, but it is also important to praise those who get it right and encourage other farmers and ranchers to follow best practices. We recognize, too, that families have choices in what they wish to eat, but we also believe that all animals – those in our homes, those serving in our nation’s military, and those raised on our farms and ranches – deserve to be humanely treated. We call on the more than 95 percent of Americans who do choose to eat eggs, meat and dairy products to set a humane table this year with humanely raised foods and support producers committed to farm animal welfare.” To help, American Humane Association offers a list of certified producers and also released a new television PSA urging support of humanely raised foods.
America’s First Farm Animal Welfare Program…and a Message from Temple Grandin
American Humane Association, the country’s first national humane organization, was founded around the issue of farm animal welfare in 1877 and has been at the forefront of improvements and protections for children, pets and farm animals for 138 years (see historic timeline). With a history of working positively and collaboratively with farmers, ranchers, animal advocates and the American public to create moderate, mainstream and commonsense solutions that work for both animals and people, in 2000 American Humane Association created the nation’s first third-party farm animal welfare certification and auditing program with more than 200 science-based standards covering everything from adequate space to air quality, heat and lighting, humane treatment, and the ability for animals to be animals and express the natural behaviors of their kind. These standards for the resulting American Humane Certified™ program were built upon the internationally accepted values of the Five Freedoms, created by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as well as input from animal science experts, veterinarians and other animal husbandry specialists. These evidence-based standards are reviewed regularly by a Scientific Advisory Committee made up of some of the world’s leading experts and animal advocates, including farm animal welfare pioneer and National Humanitarian Medal winner Temple Grandin, who sent a personal message to Capitol Hill to reinforce the importance of humane guidelines and independent auditing to ensure animals are treated humanely.
“Good animal welfare is important because turkey, poultry, chickens, cows and pigs – these animals feel fear and they feel pain,” said Dr. Grandin. “It’s extremely important to have good standards so these animals do not suffer. You need to have guidelines more strict than minimal commercial standards and American Humane Association guidelines are more strict. I’ve worked many years to improve animal welfare and the American Humane Association’s program is third-party audited. It is extremely important for a standards program to have independent third-party auditors….to make sure people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing so when you say something on a label, you can be really sure they did it and not just a label. The humane care of animals is extremely important.”
Small, Medium and Large Farm Producers Committed to Humane Practices
At the briefing, small, medium and large producers spoke out about the benefits of good farm animal welfare and their work to advance safe, affordable, and humanely raised food.
John and Connie Caveny, who run Caveny Farm, a small American Humane Certified farm specializing in pasture-raised heritage turkeys and lamb in Illinois, shared personal stories how they care for their animals.
“Caveny Farm is a little green spot surrounded by corn and soybean fields about half way between Champaign and Decatur Illinois,” said the Cavenys. “Our farm is about 35 acres of land less than a mile from the Sangamon River. In about 2001 I read about the Heritage turkey program started by the convivia leader of the New York Slow Food convivia. The heritage turkey Program was a joint effort with Slow Food and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. The idea was to save these rare breeds of livestock by providing an economic incentive for farmers to do so. We have been raising Bourbon Red turkeys ever since. Once they are fully feathered, they are placed on pasture in enclosed floorless pens for protection from predators. Pens are moved to fresh grass every day. As the turkeys grow, some are removed from the pens and allowed to roam in a movable fenced area around the pens. Turkey droppings left on the grass are almost immediately recycled by soil microbes. About a week after the turkeys move on, all that’s left is new young green grass. Being able to display the American Humane Certified logo assures visitors and non-visitors alike that our production practices are consistent with science-based animal welfare standards and that our animals have a good life and the land is better for it. We thank the farmers and ranchers who have been kind to their animals and to Mother Earth. We thank the chefs who transform this raw goodness into delicious meals, all of our customers, American Humane Association’s Humane Heartland for elevating the issue of farm animal welfare.”
Kay Johnson Smith, president and CEO of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, offered her thoughts about the importance of animal welfare on all size farms, and ensuring a safe and affordable food system in America.
“Animal welfare is not a new concept to America’s farmers and ranchers – it is a responsibility they have taken seriously for centuries,” said Smith. “But recognizing our society is now three to four generations removed from the farm and wants to know more about where their food comes from and how it’s produced, the animal agriculture community recognized the need to demonstrate their care and commitment to their animals in a more concrete way. It’s important to recognize that farm animal welfare is complex because how farm animals are raised impacts other important factors, such as food safety, the environment and costs, as well. It’s not in the animals’ – or the farmers’ – best interest to make decisions about housing or space based on emotion, but rather on science and with a full understanding of how any change will impact these other important issues. That’s why the Alliance has long advocated that science-based animal care programs be implemented on farms and ranches of all sizes and types – because it’s the right thing to do for the animals and the best thing to provide consumers the assurances they need.”
Charles Lanktree, CEO of Eggland’s Best, spoke about the need to provide healthy, humane, safe and affordable food, saying, “We at Eggland’s Best pledge our commitment and applaud all who are pulling together to support not only humane animal care, but also food safety, superior nutrition, as well as providing affordable products for the American consumer.”
Attorney Michael A. Tenenbaum advocated for commonsense ethical solutions that work for animals and people, maintaining that humanely raised food should not be an elitist commodity, but available to all.
“There is a sea of competing voices on the issues of farm animal welfare,” said Tenenbaum. “But the wisest voices are those that advocate for commonsense ethical solutions.”
James Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, talked about how good animal welfare also translates to better health for families.
“America’s dairy farmers have a long history of providing excellent care to their dairy cattle. In addition to the moral imperative of quality animal care, healthy, well-treated cows are the key factor in the production of high quality milk upon which dairy farmers’ livelihoods depend. Simply put, what’s good for cows is good for the farmers who milk those cows. And this industry-wide commitment to proper animal health care provides millions of consumers with a safe, wholesome, high quality milk supply.”
Chef Douglas Keane, winner of “Top Chef Masters” and a prestigious James Beard Award, voiced his belief that humanely raised food is a key ingredient in today’s cuisine, and gave some tasty ideas on how Americans can set a humane table for the holidays.
“In order to set a humane table across the country we need to first help support consumers to question how their food is being raised; then we must create a user-friendly environment to assist in making the right decisions,” said Chef Keane. Humane certifications are a giant step towards this goal.”
And Dr. J. Michael McFarland, veterinarian, Group Director, CAD Veterinary Operations at Zoetis, and American Humane Association board member, talked about the need for everyone to be involved in raising the level of animal welfare.
“Safeguarding animal wellbeing is a commitment we all share,” said Dr. McFarland. “We emphasize the importance of animal wellbeing on all size farms; and we collectively advocate for a safe and affordable food system in America. To ensure success, it’s key to have the active involvement of industry to find appropriate solutions. We wish you, your families, and your friends a happy Thanksgiving.”
Demonstrating Commitment to Animals and People with Donation to Local Families
To demonstrate American Humane Certified producers’ commitment to both animals and people, Butterball, Eggland’s Best, and Red Barn Family Farms, Appleton, Wisconsin made generous holiday donations to The D.C. Central Kitchen. Butterball contributed 150 whole turkeys, Eggland’s Best sent over 5,000 eggs, and Red Barn Family Farms, Appleton, Wisconsin sent more than 1,000 individually wrapped cheddar cheese sticks, all of which will feed hundreds of needy, local Washington families.
New National Survey Shows Overwhelming Support for Humanely Raised Foods
A new national survey of 5,900 Americans released by American Humane Association shows overwhelming popular support for the humane treatment of farm animals and humanely raised foods. The 2014 Humane Heartland™ Farm Animal Survey, the second conducted by American Humane Association reveals that more than nine in ten respondents (94.9%) were very concerned about farm animal welfare, up from 89 percent in the 2013 study. More than three-quarters (75.7%) stated that they were very willing to pay more for humanely raised eggs, meat, and dairy products, up from 74 percent last year. And for the second year in a row, in a ranking of the importance of food labels, “humanely raised” scored highest, over “antibiotic-free,” “organic,” and “natural.” Impediments to people’s choosing humane products was also explored: While one-third of those surveyed (35.3%) said they did purchase humanely raised foods, more than half (54.6%) said they were either not available (35.6%) or too expensive (19%). Nearly one in ten (9%) said they did not know the difference. Among the many comments that were elicited from the poll were these:
“It is imperative that farm animals are treated humanely. Not only is it the right thing to do for the animals. But it is also the right thing to do for the human population as well.”
“I feel that all life is precious. Why should we have to pay more for humanely raised food? It should be law that all farms should be humane. Abuse is abuse, human or animal.”
“Farm animals may be raised for human consumption – however, they should be able to live out their lives free of pain and abuse. Even farm animals deserve dignity and kindness.”
“I believe ALL animals should be treated humanely, and that includes those being raised for consumption. They should be raised and treated in a humane way and when it comes time to end their lives, killed in a humane way. No other treatment is acceptable.”
“I want natural, healthy, and humanely raised food. I think the price is WAY too high at the current time, and I really don’t understand why.”
“Please continue to help animal improve welfare. It is extremely important, and I purposefully look for food labels that indicate improved treatment of animals on products that I purchase.”
“I try to be a vegan, but sometimes slip and eat a pizza or nachos. I think humane treatment of farm animals is of the utmost importance.”
“I don’t see enough food labeled humanely raised in my super market. It’s hard to find.”
“All the farm animals deserve to be treated like the living, breathing, feeling creatures they are. They need to be respected!”
“Meat from humanely treated animals shouldn’t be more expensive. It should be the norm.”
“I buy humanely raised products when I can but in my area there aren’t a lot of choices. I’d like to see many more humanely raised products.”
“I don’t understand why it would be more expensive or costly to raise animals humanely or to have more naturally produced food.”
“I am vegan, but for those who are not, it is extremely important to buy only free range, hormone free, humanely treated farm animal products!”
“Paying more is totally okay, but it is not always affordable for us.”
“More affordable would give more people the choice for them and the animals.”
Full results of the 2014 survey can be found here: http://www.americanhumane.org/humane-heartland/2014-humane-heartland-farm-survey.pdf
About American Humane Association and the American Humane Certified™ program
American Humane Association is the country’s first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Since 1877, American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting our most vulnerable from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding the human-animal bond and its role in therapy, medicine and society. American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association at http://www.americanhumane.org today.
American Humane Association was founded in 1877 on the issue of farm animal welfare, and created the American Humane Certified™ program, the first and largest independent, third-party humane farm animal welfare certification and audit program. The more than 200 species-specific, science-based standards of the American Humane Certified program cover everything from adequate space to air quality, heat and lighting, humane treatment, and the ability of animals to express natural behaviors, and were built on the internationally accepted values of the Five Freedoms, created by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as well as input from animal science experts, veterinarians and other animal husbandry specialists. The program’s standards are reviewed regularly by a Scientific Advisory Committee made up of some of the world’s leading experts and animal advocates For 138 years American Humane Association has worked positively and collaboratively with farmers, ranchers, animal advocates, and the American public as a moderate, mainstream voice to create solutions that work for animals and people.